The stakes are always high when the Lufkin Panthers take on the Nacogdoches Dragons. After years of Lufkin dominance, the Dragons were able to make the series a rivalry once again when they took back-to-back wins over the Panthers in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Since then, Lufkin has been able to turn he pendulum back in its favor with a 38-0 win in 2015 and a 42-28 victory last season. That individual rivalry will take somewhat of a backseat this week as both teams are in search of their first win.
Lufkin faded late in a 35-16 loss against the Longview Lobos. The Dragons did some late fading of their own in giving up the last 14 points in a 35-21 loss to Kilgore.
Now each team will look to get back on track when they play in Lufkin’s home opener at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium on Friday night.
“We’ll look at it and get it fixed,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said after Friday’s loss to Longview. “That’s not the way you want to start a season.”
In that game, Lufkin held its own for the entire first half and was a single yard from tying the score early in the third quarter. However, when it settled for a field goal after an 18-play drive, Longview seemed to use that defensive momentum to pave the way to a dominating second half.
Nacogdoches is coming off of its own loss in the opener. In that game, Nacogdoches used the big play to hang with Kilgore, scoring on a 94-yard Jed Morgan punt return and a fumble recovery for two of its touchdowns.
The fumble recovery off Nacgdoches’ tailback Isaiah Smith’s miscue knotted the game at 21-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.
However, the Bulldogs took over from there in securing the 14-point win.
While Lufkin struggled to slow down Longview’s running game, Nacogdoches also struggled against Kilgore, which just missed on running for 400 yards. QB Patrick Jackson ran for 136 yards and three touchdowns and Javorie Hamilton had 144 yards and a score.
That could serve as an opening for Lufkin’s Isaiah Phillips, who ran for 170 yards in the season opener.
Kickoff for Friday’s game at Abe Martin Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m.